Pavlova with Strawberries and Rhubarb
Good ol’ Aussie Pav . . . or is it good ol’ New Zealand Pav?! This dessert was created to honor Anna Pavlova, the amazing Russian ballerina, who first toured Australia and New Zealand in 1926. There is debate to this day over which country invented it (ahem, Australia, of course). Whatever the case, this billowy meringue with its marshmallowy center and crisp, delicate crust is a must-make for your next grilling gig. Celebrate the season by topping the Pav with strawberries and deep red rhubarb, or your choice of seasonal fruits. Serves 6-8.
6 large egg whites
1 3/4 cups superfine sugar
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons amaretto or other almond- flavored liqueur
3 tablespoons honey (preferably lavender honey)
6 ounces fresh rhubarb, thinly sliced diagonally
8 ounces small fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons finely chopped toasted pistachios
Powdered sugar, for sifting
The meringue can be made up to 8 hours ahead, cooled, covered, and stored at room temperature.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and draw an 8-inch circle on the parchment.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating on medium- high speed for about 10 minutes, or until firm glossy peaks form. Beat in the vinegar, vanilla, and salt. Sift the cornstarch over the meringue and gently fold it in.
Using a large spoon, dollop the meringue into the center of the circle on the prepared baking sheet. Spread the meringue decoratively, keeping it within the circle (the meringue will expand slightly as it bakes).
Place the Pavlova in the oven, immediately reduce the oven temperature to 225°F, and bake for about 1 hour, or until the meringue is crisp on the outside but still has a marshmallow-like center and puffs ever so slightly. Turn off the oven, prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon, and leave the meringue in the oven for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and cool completely.
In a medium heavy saucepan, whisk the amaretto and honey over medium-high heat until the mixture simmers. Add the rhubarb and return the mixture to a simmer, then immediately remove the pan from the heat. Set aside for about 5 minutes, or until the rhubarb softens slightly but does not become mushy.
Transfer the rhubarb mixture to a medium bowl. Add the strawberries and toss to coat. Set aside, tossing occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, or until the strawberries have softened slightly.
In a large bowl, using a handheld mixer, beat the cream with the almond extract until just thick enough to form loose dollops. Set the meringue on a platter and spoon the cream over it. Using a slotted spoon, arrange the strawberry-rhubarb mixture on the cream; reserve the juices in the bowl. Sprinkle the Pavlova with the pistachios and sift powdered sugar over it.
Cut the Pavlova into wedges and transfer to plates. Drizzle some of the reserved strawberry-rhubarb juices around each wedge and serve immediately.
So here’s the thing about Pavlova: If the meringue is overbaked, it puffs too much and creates a big gaping air pocket inside, robbing you of that desirable marshmallow-y center that contrasts beautifully with the crisp exterior. To get it just right, I suggest using an oven thermometer to make sure that your oven is at the correct temperature. Oven thermometers can be found in the baking aisle in many supermarkets or at housewares stores for only a few dollars—a good investment for the perfect Pav and one that will come in handy every time you bake.